Earlier, this year, I asked a friend of mine to write a guest post outlining his perspective of the State/Carolina rivalry. Some background – he is an avid ACC historian and trivia king (rivals our own noah on those fronts), a “friend of the blog,” and the only “football first” UNC fan that I have ever met. He actually attended the thrashing in Death Valley last year – I shit you not. We eagerly await the likely return of BLS in the comments. Without further ado, here are the words of ACC Guru:
I’ve been asked to give the Carolina (or should I say “UNC-CH”) perspective of the State-Carolina rivalry, and have struggled with the best way to organize my discussion. First, I decided to limit my analysis to the last 20-25 years, mainly because I wasn’t old enough to follow college football until the mid-80s. Once I decided on that timeframe, I quickly realized that, for most Carolina fans, and probably for even more State fans, this rivalry over the last 21 years has pretty much been defined by the man working the home sideline at Carter-Finley Stadium. So, here’s one Carolina fans’ take on this great rivalry during the Sheridan, O’Cain, and Amato years.
The Sheridan Years (1986-1992)
Results: NC State 6, UNC 1
Best game:1986. State wins 35-34 in Kenan by stopping a UNC 2-point try in the closing seconds. Ironically, had the Heels kicked the PAT, and assuming the rest of that season plays out the same, UNC would have tied Clemson for the ACC title.
Best memory: 1987. An easy choice – the Heels’ only win over Sheridan.
Worst memory: 1992. After back-to-back winning seasons under Mack Brown, UNC fans finally thought we had caught up to the Pack, and so this 27-20 home loss was really tough to take. (Honorable mention for the 1990 loss. That game was not televised and I was stuck listening on the radio, and was just left in stunned silence when Woody Durham described Damon Hartman’s 56-yard game winning field goal crossing over the goal post.)
My take: It was tough being a Carolina football fan during Mack’s early years, particularly with respect to this rivalry. State had really solid teams and the Heels were terrible, resulting in two awful shellackings in 1988 and 1989. Plus, Sheridan was such a good game coach that, despite Mack Brown’s upgrade of the UNC talent, the Heels could not quite break through in the early 90s, though it wouldn’t be long (see The O’Cain Years) before the Heels got back on track against the Pack.
The O’Cain Years (1993-1999)
Results: UNC 7, NC State 0
Best game: 1998. Heels win OT thriller in Charlotte, despite a great performance by one of the finest receivers in ACC history, Torry Holt.
Best memory: 1993. UNC ends the 5-year losing streak by outscoring State 25-0 in the second half for a 35-14 win in Carter-Finley.
Worst memory: 1995. OK, it was still a win, but it wasn’t that much fun seeing a 5-5 UNC team need a missed pass interference call on a 2-point play to sneak into the Carquest bowl with a 30-28 escape over a bad State team.
My take: Ah, these were the glory years for the Heels. However, I get the sense that most Heel fans got a little spoiled with the success of the mid-90s, and so the 1998 and 1999 wins were probably more special than some of the others during this stretch because they helped erase some of the sting of watching a Top-5 team quickly unwind into the abyss of the post-Mack Brown era.
The Amato Years (2000-2006)
Results: UNC 4, NC State 3
Best game: 2001. The only time during the Amato years that both UNC and State would go to a bowl. The Heels defense, led by future NFL stars Julius Peppers and David Thornton, was just a little better than Philip Rivers’ offense in a 17-9 UNC win.
Best memory: 2004. Realizing my audience, I won’t add any detail here.
Worst memory: 2002. UNC leads 17-7 early in the second half only to see the Pack roar back for a convincing 34-17 win. This game was early enough in the season that UNC fans believed that the Heels, at 2-3, could still have a good season. However, by the time this game entered the 4th quarter, it became very obvious that State was on its way to a banner year while the Heels were on their way to a horrible 3-9 campaign.
My take: The 2002 and 2003 seasons were very depressing ones for UNC football fans. It was bad enough that our Heels were 5-19 over that stretch, including a home loss to Duke in which a future NFL Pro-Bowl running back couldn’t even earn one carry from our brilliant coaching staff. What made it worse was State’s success over that same time, especially with the media’s seemingly incessant hype of the “Golden Boy” Rivers. Thankfully, Philip graduated, and since then the rivalry has taken a more pleasant turn.
For the first time since 1992, State and Carolina both have quality head football coaches. Here’s hoping that the games between TOB’s Pack and Butch’s Heels will be as entertaining as some of those early 90s contests, but hopefully with different outcome. If a Middlebury kicker boots a 56-yard field goal to beat the Heels on Saturday, I may just have to give up football all together.